Joke Pertaining to Muslims Went Beyond Humour In Bad Taste, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

Ottawa, January 27, 2004 – The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) today released its decision concerning a multiple choice “quiz” (in which the answer “c” was always the correct choice), aired on CJAY-FM (Calgary) between 8:30 and 9:00 am on February 10, 2003.  A listener complained that the third answer to a Muslim-related question constituted a racist comment.  The Prairie Regional Panel agreed.  It concluded that the answer to this particular part of the “quiz” was indeed in breach of Clause 2 (Human rights) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics, which requires that “programming contains no abusive or unduly discriminatory material based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability.”

The segment in question was a recurring “quiz” during which a caller is asked a few multiple choice questions which he or she must answer with the third choice, i.e. answer “c”, which is predictably the most provocative of all three possible choices.  On the morning in question, there were three quiz questions.  The Prairie Panel considered that, while the last two jokes were on a totally different subject and on the edge of acceptability, the first joke, the one relating to Muslims, was in breach of the Code.  The allegedly correct answer to the question why do Muslims around the world continue to travel to Mecca on the week-end, implied the involvement of all Muslims in terrorist activities.  The Panel concluded:

There are times in the life of a society when it is far too easy to single out an identifiable group as a recipient of harsh discriminatory comment.  Society is frequently ready to find a scapegoat for segments of its ills, perhaps as a catharsis for their resolution.  It is perhaps when such solutions come most easily that society ought to be most vigilant.  Since the shocking events that have come to be known simply as ‘9/11’ and the proliferation of incidents of terrorism both before and after that date, it has been all too easy to target the Muslim communities with comments that are generalizations which are negative, hurtful and utterly unjustified.

That was the case with the challenged program.  The humour in this broadcast was singularly unacceptable.  The implication that all Muslims (how else could one interpret the words “Muslims around the world”?) might travel to their holiest city in order to fund terrorist activities is outrageous.  To put it in perspective, the failure to distinguish between the Muslim community and terrorists is no more acceptable or justifiable than a failure to distinguish between (to choose one of many possible examples) white persons and the Ku Klux Klan.  The Muslim community bears no more responsibility for persons within its ranks who break the laws than all white persons bear responsibility for the illegal actions of Klan members […] The broadcast of this part of the “quiz” constitutes a breach of Clause 2 of the CAB Code of Ethics.

Canada’s private broadcasters have themselves created industry standards in the form of Codes on ethics, gender portrayal and television violence by which they expect the members of their profession will abide.  In 1990, they also created the CBSC, which is the self-regulatory body with the responsibility of administering those professional broadcast Codes, as well as the Code dealing with journalistic practices first created by the Radio Television News Directors Association of Canada (RTNDA) in 1970.  More than 530 radio and television stations and specialty services from across Canada are members of the Council.

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All CBSC decisions, Codes, links to members' and other web sites, and related information are available on the CBSC's website at www.cbsc.ca. For more information, please contact the CBSC National Chair, Mme Andrée Noël CBSC Executive Director, John MacNab